Ancient Arts Used to Deal With Modern Tech Stress

by Placerville Newswire / Feb 16, 2016 / comments

[Mindfulness-based stress-reduction instructor Gayle Wilson, rear center, leads her class through meditation late last month in El Dorado Hills. Andrew Seng]

As the meditation began and people took their seats in the sparsely decorated meeting room, Jason DeCruz sat with his eyes closed and his palms resting in his lap. Occasional car headlights flashed in from the parking lot outside and the front door swung open and closed, but DeCruz didn’t break his focus or open his eyes.

It seemed like an effortless act of concentration for the soft-spoken 26-year-old graphic design student, but he has worked for years to achieve this pocket of peace.

Suffering from major depression since he was 13, DeCruz said he used to get overwhelmed by anxiety, especially at the academic testing center where he worked. Now, with about half an hour of meditation a day, he can step back when anger, despair or other emotions arise and ask himself: “Is this a direction I want to go?”

“It’s a different relationship with yourself,” said the El Dorado Hills resident. “I was very self-critical. I always beat myself up over small things. I learned to stop doing that and do the opposite and say, ‘It’s OK, everybody goes through this type of thing,’ and, in a way, become my own therapist.

“Being able to carry that wherever you go and in whatever situation, that’s extremely powerful.”

The walking meditations and breathing exercises that have helped bring balance to DeCruz’s life began centuries ago as the core tenets of Asian religious practices. Today, they’ve evolved into “mindfulness,” a physical and mental health regimen that has taught employees, students and others how to cope with a range of stresses.

Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Facebook are incorporating mindfulness into their office culture, with meditation rooms and workshops, while some school districts have embraced transcendental meditation to help ease disciplinary problems and lift student performance.

First popularized by molecular scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s, mindfulness training seeks to accomplish the same goal as yoga and tai chi chuan, offering busy Americans the calming effects of Asian spiritual disciplines but without their religious trappings....

For former office administrator Karen Cornell, learning mindfulness has taught her for the first time to be “systematically aware” of her thoughts and act as an observer to them rather than a hostage. Like DeCruz, the 65-year-old Placerville resident has suffered from depression, which she said meditation has helped her overcome.

“The ability to witness my own thoughts and emotions and work with them before I react or respond either to myself or someone else has been super valuable,” Cornell said. “It ripples out into my life.”

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